The Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF) is the principal and Volunteer reserve force component of the Sri Lanka Army. It is a collective name for the reserve units and the Sri Lanka National Guard of the Sri Lankan Army. The SLAVF is made up of part-time Officers and soldiers paid at a similar rate, while engaged on military activities, as their Regular equivalents. This is in contrast to the Regular Army Reserve, which currently comprises people who have a mobilization obligation for a number of years after their former full-time service in the regular army has been completed. Overall administration and recruitment of reserve personal is carried out by the Volunteer Force Headquarters in Kosgama, headed by the Commandant of the Volunteer Force, this is usually a Major General. The current commandant is Major General A P de Z Wickramaratne RWP ndu psc.


The second phase in the employment of non-British personnel commenced in 1861 after the enactment of an ordinance designed to authorize the creation of Volunteer Corps in the island. It was designated the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers (CLIV). This move compensated for the disbandment of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment in 1874. The Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers was originally administered as a single unit. However, over the years various sections of the volunteers grew large enough to become independent from their parent unit. The different units that emerged from the Volunteer Force were the,

  • Ceylon Artillery Volunteers
  • Ceylon Mounted Infantry(CMI)
  • Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps(CPRC)
  • Ceylon Volunteer Medical Corps
  • Cadet Battalion Ceylon Light Infantry
  • Ceylon Engineers
  • Ceylon Supply & Transport Corps 


In 1910 the name of the military was formerly changed to the Ceylon Defence Force (CDF). It continued to grow throughout the early period of 20th century. The CDF saw active service when a contingent of the Ceylon Mounted Infantry (CMI) in 1900, and a contingent of Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps (CPRC) in 1902, took part in the Second Boer War in South Africa. Their services were recognized by presentation, in 1902, of a color to the CMI, and a presentation in 1904, of a Banner to the CPRC. In 1922, the CDF was honored by the presentation of the King’s and Regimental colors to the Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI).

During the First World War, many volunteers from the Defence Force traveled to England and joined the British Army, and many of them were killed in action. One of them mentioned by Arthur Conan Doyle was Private Jacotine of the CLI, who was the last man left alive in his unit at the Battle of Lys, and who continued to fight for 20 minutes before he was killed.

In 1939, the CDF was mobilized and an enormous expansion took place which required the raising of new units such as the Post and Telegraph Signals, the Ceylon Railway Engineer Corps, the Ceylon Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Corps, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Ceylon Corps of Military Police, the Ceylon Signals Corps and the Colombo Town Guard Unit, which had been previously disbanded, but was later re-formed to meet military requirements. During the Second World War Britain assumed direct control over the Armed Forces of Ceylon.


Following the formation of the army in 1949, the CDF became the nucleus of the Ceylon Army and all volunteer units of the CDF—which was the majority of the CDF— became the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF). A large number of Second World War veterans were serving in the CVF at the time and in the post-Independence years the CVF played an important role while a new regular army was being formed.

During this time the CVF was mobilized a number of times to counter riots and strikes that occurred, however, after several of its senior officers were implicated in the failed attempted coup in 1962 the post of Commandant of the Volunteer Force has since been filled by a combat officer of the regular army.

In 1972 when Sri Lanka became a republic the name of the force was changed to Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force. The current strength of the SLAVF is about 50,000 volunteer combat officers and other ranks attached to various units and regiments of the Sri Lanka Army. The commandant of the SLAVF is normally the third most senior combat officer of the regular army holding, the rank of Major General.


Since the formation of the first cadet platoon with students of the Royal College, Colombo which was attached to the Ceylon Light Infantry, the Cadet Battalion came under the Ceylon Defence Force. From 1949, the Ceylon Cadet Corps with its cadet battalions came under the Volunteer Force until 1988 when the National Cadet Corps was formed as a separate entity.


Ceylon Defence Force (CDF) was established in 1910 by the Ceylonese legislation Ceylon Defence Force Ordinance, which reformed the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF) that existed previously as the military reserve in the British Crown colony of Ceylon. At the time of forming it was only a reserve force but soon developed into a regular force responsible for the defence of Ceylon. The CDF was under the command of the General Officer Commanding, Ceylon of the British Army in Ceylon if mobilized. However mobilization could be carried out only under orders from the Governor.


The origins of the CDF can be traced back to the formation of the Ceylon Volunteers (CV) in 1881, whereby the rifle section was designated the 1st battalion Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI). The CV soon became the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF) and finally was renamed the Ceylon Defence Force in 1910. Units of the Ceylon Volunteer Force in 1910.

  • Ceylon Artillery Volunteers
  • Ceylon Light Infantry(CLI)
  • Ceylon Mounted Infantry(CMI)
  • Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps(CPRC)
  • Ceylon Volunteer Medical Corps
  • Ceylon Engineers
  • Cadet Battalion Ceylon Light Infantry 

Second Boer War

In 1900 Ceylon Mounted Infantry saw action and in 1902 a contingent of Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, took part in the Second Boer War in South Africa. Their services were recognized by presentation, in 1902, of a colour to the CMI, and a presentation in 1904, of a Banner to the CPRC. Although there were Ceylonese officers much of the officer corps was made up of British officers and the other ranks where mostly Ceylonese with the exception of the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps which was completely made up of Europeans.

World war I

In 1914 with the outbreak of World War I the CDF was mobilized and expanded. Many volunteers from the Defence Force traveled to England and joined the British Army, and many of them were killed in action. One of them mentioned by Arthur Conan Doyle was Private Jacotine of the CLI, who was the last man left alive in his unit at the Battle of Lys, and who continued to fight for 20 minutes before he was killed. The CPRC sent a force of 8 officers and 229 other ranks commanded by Major J. Hall Brown to the great war. The unit sailed for Egypt on October 1914, and was deployed in defence of the Suez Canal. This unit was officially attached to the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and was in 1915 dispatched to Anzac Cove (‘Z’ Beach) on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The CPRC performed operational duties as guards to ANZAC headquarter staff, including the General Officer Commanding ANZAC, Lieutenant General William Birdwood, who remarked, “I have an excellent guard of Ceylon Planters who are such a nice lot of fellows.” According to its onetime Commanding Officer (CO), Colonel T.Y. Wright (1904–1912), the CPRC had sustained overall losses of 80 killed and 99 wounded in the Great War. Soon after the war the last regular military unit to be stationed in Ceylon on garrison duties 80th Carnatics left. This resulted in the CDF becoming a regular military unit with some units like Mobilized Detachment of Ceylon Light Infantry (Mob. Det., CLI) having its volunteer troops mobilized on a fixed basis.

World war II

In 1939 with the Second World War CDF was mobilized and expanded to fortify Ceylon to meet a possible threat posed by the Japanese. CDF came direct command of the South East Asia Command (SEAC) and formed part of the British 11th Army Group. It was sometimes referred to as the British Army in Ceylon during this time. South East Asia Command under Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten had its headquarters located at Kandy, Ceylon

Troops from the CDF, mainly the Ceylon Light Infantry and the Ceylon Garrison Artillery were placed outside Ceylon undertaking garrison duties on the Seychelles and the Cocos Islands. In Cocos Islands Mutiny took place (encouraged by Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party) by a few members of the Ceylon Garrison Artillery but was immediately put down by the Ceylon Light Infantry. CLI troops in 1941 escorted Italian POWs from the Middle East to Ceylon, and later in 1946 Japanese POWs from Ceylon to India.

In 1945 reached its wartime peak at 645 officers and 14,247 other ranks. At the center of the expansion was the CLI which grew by 1946 from one to five battalions.

Post war

In 1947 the CDF was again mobilised in its last major internal security operation to suppress a left wing Hartal, or mass stoppage of work. The CDF was given additional support by an armed detachment of British Royal Marines from HMS Glasgow, who were utilized to deter strikers in Colombo.

The CDF was officially disbanded on 11 April 1949 and reconstituted by Army Act No. 17 of 1949 which revoked the Ceylon Defence Force Ordinance of 1910 as the Ceylon Volunteer Force (CVF), itself becoming the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force (SLAVF) in 1972. Soldiers who had experience in the CDF were actively recruited into the newly constructed regular, and reconstituted volunteer Ceylon Army. In its first few years, and with few exceptions, the only new recruits enlisted were officer cadets and soldiers below the rank of Warrant Officer. Ex-CDF veterans featured prominently in the post-independence regular Ceylon Army until General D. S. Attygalle (1967–1977) finished his term as Commander. The last ex-CDF veteran to leave the Army was Brigadier T. S. B. Sally of the SLAVF, who ended his service tenure in 1979.


  • Ceylon Light Infantry(CLI) (1881–Present)
  • Mobilised Detachment of Ceylon Light Infantry(Mob. Det., CLI) (1917–1939)
  • Ceylon Garrison Artillery(CGA) (1889–Present)
  • Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps(CPRC) (1887–1949)
  • Ceylon Cadet Battalion(CCB) (1902–Present)
  • Ceylon Mounted Rifles(CMR) (1906–1938)
  • Ceylon Engineers(CE) (1911–Present)
  • Ceylon Medical Corps(CMC) (1911–Present)
  • Colombo Town Guard(CTG) (1914–1918, 1939–1945)
  • Town Guard Artillery(TGA) (1914–1939)
  • Ceylon Motor Cyclist Corps (CMCC) (1915-N/A)
  • Ceylon Supply & Transport Corps(CSTC) (1918–1949)
  • Ceylon Signal Corps(CSC) (1943–Present)
  • Auxiliary Territorial Service(Ceylon) (ATS (Ceylon)) (1943–1946)
  • Royal Military Police(Ceylon) (1944–1949)


Please refer to past commandants in this web.


  • The Rt. Hon.Don Stephen Senanayake, CTG – First Prime Minister of Ceylon.
  • GeneralSir John Lionel Kotelawala CH, KBE, CLI – Third Prime Minister of Ceylon
  • CaptainHenry Pedris, CTG – A prominent figure executed by the British.
  • Major E. A. Nugawela, CLI – former Minister of Education (of the first cabinet 1948), Member of Parliament & State Council
  • Major GeneralAnton Muttukumaru OBE, ED, CLI – First Ceylonese Commander of the Ceylon Army (1955–1959)
  • Major General W. G. Wijeyekoon, OBE, ED, CLI – Former Commander of the Ceylon Army (1960–1963)
  • Major GeneralRichard Udugama, MBE, CLI – Former Commander of the Ceylon Army (1964–1966)
  • Major GeneralR. Heyn, CLI – Former Commander of the Ceylon Army (1966–1967)
  • General S. Attygalle MVO, CLI – Former Commander of the Sri Lankan Army (1967–1977)
  • LieutenantBasil Arthur Horsfall, VC, ELR – only Ceylonese to win a Victoria Cross
  • ColonelFredrick C. de Saram, OBE, CA – former commanding officer Ceylon Artillery and the leader of the Attempted military coup in 1962
  • BombardierGratien Fernando, CGA – leader of the Cocos Islands Mutiny


From its formation, the Ceylon Defence Force used British military decorations.

  • Ceylon Medal 1818
  • Ceylon Overseas Volunteer Service Oval Medallion
  • World War I Ceylon Commemorative Medal
  • Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration
  • Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal
  • Efficiency Decoration (Ceylon)
  • Efficiency Medal (Ceylon)